January 04, 2008

Las Vegas to Build World’s First 30 Story Vertical Farm

there is a report from next energy news that Las Vegas should have the first vertical farm by 2010 It is a $200 million project to make a 30 story building. They hope to generate $40 million per year. $25 million from produce and $15 million form tourists. However, no details about who is building it

30 story vertical farm

Boron nanotubes

The New Scientist reports onboron nanotubes that will have many superior properties over carbon nanotubes

According to Xiaobao Yang, Yi Ding and Jun Ni from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, the best configuration for boron is to take the unstable hexagon lattice and add an extra atom to the centre of some of the hexagons (see image, top right). They calculate that this is the most stable known theoretical structure for a boron nanotube.

Their simulation also shows that, with this pattern, boron nanotubes should have variable electrical properties: wider ones would be metallic conductors, but narrower ones should be semiconductors. If so, then boron tubes might be used in nanodevices similar to the diodes and transistors that have already been made from carbon nanotubes, says Ni.

Metallic boron nanotubes would still be useful, however, as they should be better conductors than carbon, and be superconducting at higher temperatures so if a superconducting nanocomputer is ever built, it might have boron wiring.

To actually make the boron tubes, Ni suggests chemical vapour deposition, which is a process already used to grow carbon nanotubes

80% efficient solar power from nanoantennas

From nanowerk, a new approach for solar power, which garnered two 2007 Nano50 awards, uses a special manufacturing process to stamp tiny square spirals of conducting metal onto a sheet of plastic. Each interlocking spiral "nanoantenna" is as wide as 1/25 the diameter of a human hair.

Update: Al fin has an excellent article that discusses some more details and provides more analysis of this technology

Because of their size, the nanoantennas absorb energy in the infrared part of the spectrum, just outside the range of what is visible to the eye. "I think these antennas really have the potential to replace traditional solar panels," says physicist Steven Novack, who spoke about the technology in November at the National Nano Engineering Conference in Boston. So far, they have demonstrated the imprinting process with six-inch circular stamps, each holding more than 10 million antennas.

The team estimates individual nanoantennas can absorb close to 80 percent of the available energy. The circuits themselves can be made of a number of different conducting metals, and the nanoantennas can be printed on thin, flexible materials like polyethylene, a plastic that's commonly used in bags and plastic wrap. In fact, the team first printed antennas on plastic bags used to deliver the Wall Street Journal, because they had just the right thickness.

By focusing on readily available materials and rapid manufacturing from inception, Novack says, the aim is to make nanoantenna arrays as cheap as inexpensive carpet.

The real trick to making the solar nanoantenna panels is to be able to predict their properties and perfect their design before printing them in the factory. While it is relatively easy to work out the physics of one resonating antenna, complex interactions start to happen when multiple antennas are combined. When hit with the right frequency of infrared light, the antennas also produce high-energy electromagnetic fields that can have unexpected effects on the materials.
So the researchers are developing a computer model of resonance in the tiny structures, looking for ways to fine-tune the efficiency of an entire array by changing factors like materials and antenna shape. "The ability to model these antennas is what's going to make us successful, because we can't see these things," Novack says. "They're hard to manipulate, and small tweaks are going to make big differences."

"At this point, these antennas are good at capturing energy, but they're not very good at converting it," says INL engineer Dale Kotter, "but we have very promising exploratory research under way." Kotter and Novack are also exploring ways to transform the high-frequency alternating current (AC) to direct current (DC) that can be stored in batteries. One potential candidate is high-speed rectifiers, special diodes that would sit at the center of each spiral antenna and convert the electricity from AC to DC.

They anticipate they are only a few years away from creating the next generation of solar energy collectors.

A car modder making 60mpg biodiesel Hummers

Fast Company reports on Johnathan Goodwin. He aims to use the turbine to turn the Hummer into a tricked-out electric hybrid.

UPDATE: It would be interesting and useful to see more independent testing of the fuel economy of the turbine/hybrid hummer. A 60 mpg hummer would need to have power sources that are about three times more efficient than a Toyota Prius which also gets about 60mpg. However, the Toyota Prius is about half of the weight at 2700lbs versus the Hummer at 4700lbs. Plus the Prius has 0.26 drag co-efficient while the Hummer has a drag coefficient of 0.5 to 0.57. About 60% of the power required to cruise at highway speeds is taken up overcoming air drag, and this increases very quickly at high speed. Perhaps the higher mpg figure is because the hydrogen that is added is not included in the calculation. It takes power to produce hydrogen.

However, the claims of getting one of the less fuel efficient models from 9mpg to 18mpg is more plausible. The Hummer H3 is rated at 16 mpg in the city cycle with both transmissions and 19 mpg (US) (14.7 L/100km) with the automatic or 20 mpg (US) (11.7 L/100km) with the manual on the highway. Increasing efficiency to the 32mpg range seems possible with an efficient diesel conversion.

Perhaps more fuel efficiency is coming from efficiently charging a smaller number and lighter batteries and capacitors for the electrical drive with a while driving basis with the turbine.

Like most hybrids, it'll have two engines, including an electric motor. But in this case, the second will be the turbine, Goodwin's secret ingredient. A 1985-issue turbine engine originally designed for the military. It can spin at a blistering 60,000 rpm and burn almost any fuel. And Goodwin has some startling plans for this esoteric piece of hardware: He's going to use it to create the most fuel-efficient Hummer in history. He charges $28,000 for a "basic H2 conversion to diesel--custom concept cars cost far more. Whenever the truck's juice runs low, the turbine will roar into action for a few seconds, powering a generator with such gusto that it'll recharge a set of "supercapacitor" batteries in seconds. This means the H3's electric motor will be able to perform awesome feats of acceleration and power over and over again, like a Prius on steroids. What's more, the turbine will burn biodiesel, a renewable fuel with much lower emissions than normal diesel; a hydrogen-injection system will then cut those low emissions in half. And when it's time to fill the tank, he'll be able to just pull up to the back of a diner and dump in its excess french-fry grease--as he does with his many other Hummers. Oh, yeah, he adds, the horsepower will double--from 300 to 600.

In the corner of his office sits Arnold Schwarzenegger's 1987 Jeep Wagoneer, which Goodwin is converting to biodiesel; soon, Neil Young will be shipping him a 1960 Lincoln Continental to transform into a biodiesel--electric hybrid.

His target for Young's car? One hundred miles per gallon.

The numbers are simple: With a $5,000 bolt-on kit he co-engineered--the poor man's version of a Goodwin conversion--he can immediately transform any diesel vehicle to burn 50% less fuel and produce 80% fewer emissions. On a full-size gas-guzzler, he figures the kit earns its money back in about a year--or, on a regular car, two--while hitting an emissions target from the outset that's more stringent than any regulation we're likely to see in our lifetime. "Johnathan's in a league of his own," says Martin Tobias, CEO of Imperium Renewables, the nation's largest producer of biodiesel. "Nobody out there is doing experiments like he is."

Goodwin installed the Duramax and a five-speed Allison--the required transmission for a Duramax, which also helps give it race-car-like control and a rapid take off. After five days' worth of work, the Hummer was getting about 18 mpg--double the factory 9 mpg--and twice the original horsepower. He drove it over to a local restaurant and mooched some discarded oil from its deep fryer, strained the oil through a pair of jeans, and poured it into the engine. It ran perfectly.

But Goodwin wanted more. While researching alternative fuels, he learned about the work of Uli Kruger, a German who has spent decades in Australia exploring techniques for blending fuels that normally don't mix. One of Kruger's systems induces hydrogen into the air intake of a diesel engine, producing a cascade of emissions-reducing and mileage-boosting effects. The hydrogen, ignited by the diesel combustion, burns extremely clean, producing only water as a by-product. It also displaces up to 50% of the diesel needed to fuel the car, effectively doubling the diesel's mileage and cutting emissions by at least half. Better yet, the water produced from the hydrogen combustion cools down the engine, so the diesel combustion generates fewer particulates--and thus fewer nitrogen-oxide emissions.

January 03, 2008

Implantable biosensors within 5-7 years

By 2014 the Army may issue more than combat gear to deploying soldiers. University of Connecticut researchers are developing an implantable chip that would be injected under soldiers' skin to help monitor vital health information while they are out in the field.

These kinds of devices would help enable real time tracking of biomarkers for better preventative medicine and to transform medical research and drug approval

Embedding the sensor is more complex than simply getting a shot in the wrist, because of the body's immune system reaction. “The (body's) reaction is inflammation, what you typically see if you get scab or splinter. Inflammation is the body's reaction to get rid of foreign matters,” said Dianne Burgess, professor of pharmaceutics at UConn and member of the research team.

To trick the body into not attacking the sensor, researchers have created a gel coating that contains time-release anti-inflammatory medication. Burgess said they have created a sensor that would stay implanted in a person for at least three months.

A prototype of the sensor has been assembled and the university will use this new grant to work on synchronizing the implantable nanosensor with the wrist transmitter.
UConn researchers believe a fully functional device is five years away from human testing. But they are not the only researchers working in the field.
“The competition is unbelievable,” Papadimitrakopoulos said. “But we believe we are very advanced.”

Clemson University in South Carolina is also in the race to develop an implantable sensor to monitor soldiers' vital signs. In July the Department of Defense gave the school $1.6 million to develop similar technology.

UConn scientists are looking at ways to use the technology to help change the way diabetics monitor their blood sugar and live their lives.

“Right now (diabetics) prick their fingers five times a day and we don't have a picture of what happens in between,” Burgess said. This sensor would be “completely revolutionary.”

She said the nanosensor could be used by diabetics to help understand how their bodies respond to eating and exercise and in turn produce an individualized medication and care plan.

Apple's operating system share

Carnival of Space Week 35

SENS covered in mainstream Economist magazine

The mainstream Economist magazine has extensive coverage of aging and life extension with a primary focus on the SENS strategy for life extension. The Economist article believes that SENS is a credible and plausible approach and thinks it has a chance of significant success.

They also cover the Methuselah Mouse prize

January 02, 2008

Research and Development in China

Christopher Thomas is Intel's deputy general manager for China and is based in Beijing and has written an article for Forbes that describe China's efforts and plans to develop innovation and inventions locally.

The Chinese government's goals are sweeping: to develop, influence or downright own the core intellectual property of the next generation of technologies that will power the global economy. To do this, the government has committed to doubling its spending on research and development so that it reaches 2.5% of China's gross domestic product by 2010, approaching $100 billion annually. China is also on track to have more research scientists and engineers than any other country by 2015.

China's efforts are sharply focused on 16 fundamental sectors. Among them are high-end chips, semiconductor manufacturing, next generational wireless communications, software, pharmaceuticals, large aircrafts and space systems including high-resolution Earth-observation systems. The government also intends to use China's very large domestic market as a carrot to encourage the international community to embrace and support inventions from Chinese companies.

My view and prediction of China's economy and currency appreciation indicate that in 2010 the Chinese economy will be at US$6.1 trillion. Therefore, the 2.5% of GDP spending on research and development target would be $152 billion (790 billion yuan) in 2010.

In 2006, the world's four largest spenders of R&D were the United States (US$343 billion), the EU (US$231 billion), Japan (US$130 billion), and China (US$115 billion). In terms of percentage of GDP, the order of these spenders for 2006 (no figure available for China) was Japan, United States, EU with approximate percentages of 3.2, 2.6, and 1.8 respectively. If China were to maintain the percentage of R&D spending from 2006 into 2010, then China's R&D spending would be US$255 billion and 4.2% of GDP.

China is well on its way to meeting the R&D target. In 2010, China would likely be the third largest R&D spender after the USA and the EU.

UK R&D scorecard site

Overrated nuclear weapons and underrated conventional weapons

In response to the 2008 Edge question "when did facts change your mind", Freeman Dyson describes the facts that changed his mind about the role of nuclear weapons in ending world war 2 I agree with the assessment that nuclear weapons are overrated and excessively feared. Nuclear weapons are devastating but conventional weapons and all out conventional war needs to be feared more that it is.

When facts change your mind, that's not always science. It may be history. I changed my mind about an important historical question: did the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki bring World War Two to an end? Until this year I used to say, perhaps. Now, because of new facts, I say no.

The August 9 [1945] session of the Supreme Council resulted in the decision to surrender.

The Emperor, in his rescript to the military forces ordering their surrender, does not mention the nuclear bombs but emphasizes the historical analogy between the situation in 1945 and the situation at the end of the Sino-Japanese war in 1895. In 1895 Japan had defeated China, but accepted a humiliating peace when European powers led by Russia moved into Manchuria and the Russians occupied Port Arthur. By making peace, the emperor Meiji had kept the Russians out of Japan. Emperor Hirohito had this analogy in his mind when he ordered the surrender.

The Japanese leaders had two good reasons for lying when they spoke to Robert Butow. The first reason was explained afterwards by Lord Privy Seal Kido, another member of the Supreme Council: "If military leaders could convince themselves that they were defeated by the power of science but not by lack of spiritual power or strategic errors, they could save face to some extent". The second reason was that they were telling the Americans what the Americans wanted to hear, and the Americans did not want to hear that the Soviet invasion of Manchuria brought the war to an end.

In addition to the myth of two nuclear bombs bringing the war to an end, there are other myths that need to be demolished. There is the myth that, if Hitler had acquired nuclear weapons before we did, he could have used them to conquer the world. There is the myth that the invention of the hydrogen bomb changed the nature of nuclear warfare. There is the myth that international agreements to abolish weapons without perfect verification are worthless. All these myths are false. After they are demolished, dramatic moves toward a world without nuclear weapons may become possible.

Conventional weapons can match nuclear weapon destruction but only a little slower

I do not suggest that conventional weapons should be used in the way that I will describe, but I illustrate how simple it is to achieve total devastation without using nuclear weapons. The lack of willingness by many to recognize that nuclear weapons are not unique in being able to cause complete devastation encourages bad decisions to be made which cost millions of lives every year. The wrong decision is to restrict and underdevelop nuclear power and fail to displace coal and fossil fuels for electricity and transportation. Outdoor air pollution from fossil fuels kills 3 million people every year and indoor air pollution kills 1.5 million people every year (World Health Organization statistics. Recent WHO statistics indicate the deaths from air pollution could be as high as 6 million. Over 10% of deaths from any source).

Modern conventional weapons can be used in an unrestricted way that would provide a more controlled destruction of an enemy nation. What is required is air superiority and the willingness to use conventional weapons fully. A military with air superiority can impose a Carthaginian solution upon its enemy. Rome destroyed its enemy Carthage at the end of their third war. Rome killed or sold into slavery the Carthaginians. They salted the land. Something akin to Stalin's scorched earth tactic except it would be scorching the opponents land.

1. First use your air force to destroy the opponents air force and air defences
2. Then use your air force to destroy bridges, airports, ports, and key parts of rail and roads to hinder movement within and out of the enemy territory. Blockade the country with Navy and Army forces.
3. Use your air force to destroy medical and emergency response infrastructure.
4. Drop poisons into water and food supplies or bomb food and water supplies and distribution. Use the air force to help spread certain diseases (Cholera and Malaria etc...) that devastate refugee populations but which do not effect populations with proper medical facilities.

The percentage of the target population that would be killed with this approach would equal the devastation of a nuclear attack. The devastation could be achieved in a matter of weeks and there would not be the risk of fallout and other spillover effects that come with the use of nuclear weapons.

In the 20th century, about 216 million people died from conventional war and violence and less than 200,000 died from nuclear weapons and nuclear causes. Air pollution and conventional coal mining killed over 300 million people in the 20th century.

The focus of policy should be on saving the lives lost to air pollution and on preventing wars in general. Far higher use of nuclear power (like the 80% of electricity from nuclear power in France) can reduce tensions and risks of war over limited oil resources. Higher usage of nuclear power can reduce air pollution and reduce the annual costs of medical coverage with fewer people getting sick from air pollution.

Lives will be saved and public health and national budgets and economies would be improved by using more nuclear power.

Note: Renewables can be used as well but there is 20 times as much nuclear power versus non-hydroelectric renewable power. Hydroelectric power is good but there are limitations on increasing it significantly except in China. So renewables should be developed as well but increasing electricity from nuclear power will have more impact over the next 20-30 years. From 2010-2020, a big boost to nuclear can come by using new thermoelectric devices to convert 50+% of the waste heat from nuclear into electricity. Also, in that time frame MIT power uprating technology could be deployed to generate another 50% increase in power from existing reactors. Those changes and a few more reactors that are likely to be built in the USA would increase nuclear power from the current 800 billion kwh up to 2000 billion kwh by 2020. This would be a move from 20% of electricity up to nearly 50% of electricity.

Number of Americans killed by nuclear weapons since WW2 : 0
Number of Americans killed by conventional weapons since WW2: almost 100,000

Number of Americans killed by commercial nuclear reactors since first US commercial nuclear plant (1957): 0
Americans killed by fear of nuclear power since first commercial nuclear plant (1957): 2 to 3 million mostly from air pollution.

The more accurate numbers would be what if the US had a strong nuclear power build after interest rates subsided by the 1980's and built standardized reactors:

Number of Americans killed by commercial nuclear reactors since and including Three Mile Island (1979): 0
Americans killed by fear of nuclear power (if the USA was not afraid and had copied France's strong nuclear power buildup of the 1980s. 78% electricity from nuclear power instead of 20%. Displacing coal and some natural gas and heating oil): 600,000 deaths from air pollution and 15,000 transportation and mining deaths avoided

Number of people killed by commercial nuclear reactors since first commercial nuclear plant (1956): 57 to 4000 and most likely about 400 (Mainly chernobyl).
Thyroid cancer mortality rates are about 5%. 200 deaths might be expected from 4000 cases.

People killed by fear of nuclear power since first commercial nuclear plant (1956): 150+ million mostly from air pollution. The strong build through the (1980s) to displace coal: 60 million excess deaths


1000 coal mining fatalities since 1957. 500 annual transportation deaths (rail and truck moving nearly 1 billion tons of coal per year, air pollution deaths in the USA about 70,000 per year. About 30,000 per year from coal air pollution. Air pollution and air quality was worse in the USA prior to the Clean air act of 1970, but there was half the population in the USA.

Air pollution causes 12% more cardiopulmonary deaths and 16% more lung cancer deaths Around 30-40 percent of cases of asthma and 20-30 percent of all respiratory diseases may be linked to air pollution in some locales.

A pdf with US Coal mining injuries and fatalities 1930-2006
Coal mining fatalities by state, 1993-2006

Most of the several thousand figure are for people who are expected to die from increased incidence of cancer.

Among the residents of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine, there had been up to the year 2002 about 4,000 cases of thyroid cancer reported in children and adolescents who were exposed at the time of the accident, and more cases can be expected during the next decades. Notwithstanding problems associated with screening, many of those cancers were most likely caused by radiation exposures shortly after the accident. Apart from this increase, there is no evidence of a major public health impact attributable to radiation exposure 20 years after the accident. There is no scientific evidence of increases in overall cancer incidence or mortality rates or in rates of non-malignant disorders that could be related to radiation exposure. The risk of leukaemia in the general population, one of the main concerns owing to its short latency time, does not appear to be elevated. Although those most highly exposed individuals are at an increased risk of radiation-associated effects, the great majority of the population is not likely to experience serious health consequences as a result of radiation from the Chernobyl accident. Many other health problems have been noted in the populations that are not related to radiation exposure

The first commercial nuclear generator to become operational in the United States was the Shippingport Reactor (Pennsylvania, December, 1957).
The world's first commercial nuclear power station, Calder Hall in Sellafield, England was opened in 1956 with an initial capacity of 50 MW (later 200 MW).[
On June 27, 1954, the USSRs Obninsk Nuclear Power Plant became the world's first nuclear power plant to generate electricity for a power grid, and produced around 5 megawatts electric power.

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